Well, actually more like one year and two months as my surgery date was late June 2015 but really…who’s counting at this point? Recovering from my third surgical procedure has been a long and bumpy ride but each week is slightly better than the last.
Before we get into how I feel 14 months after an L4-L5 discectomy (three weeks before the operation I had the worst Sciatica you can ever imagine) let’s look at my rehab regiment post-operation.
Things I’ve done:
1. Moderate exercise: Gave up on weight training entirely and have instead spent time walking and swimming with a little bit of stretching using the Miracle Ball and some yoga postures thrown in.
2. Acupuncture : Regular treatments up until April 2016. It helped by blocking nerve-related pain and reduced inflammation around scar tissue. Once my acupuncturist identified the proper pressure points, treatment has been a great way to reduce some left-over zinging pain down my left leg (nowhere near what it was pre-op).
Things I haven’t done:
1. Weight Training: Done with it. Not worth the risk of re-herniating and ending up in the emergency room again. I occasionally do some calisthenics like front and side planks, use light resistant bands for core muscle toning but I’ve stayed away from the moderate to heavy lifting I once did.
2. Physio: Biggest regret. I took my doctor’s advice and ignored physiotherapy which is why I think I’m still sore and extremely tight around the incision area. One exercise that really helped strengthen my core during my last round of Physio is the Dead Bug and the key to this one is proper breathing and keeping 90 degrees between the hips and knees . I’ll be resuming Physio next week – I don’t recommend waiting 14 months post-op, especially if you can find an experienced Physiotherapist who can help you stretch out muscles and ligaments, and strengthen core groups.
3. Chiropractor: Sorry for those Chiro believers but I’m done with it. After a few sessions under my belt with a decent chiropractor, I know what I need to do to maintain my spine. Good posture, sitting straight for short periods, walking regularly (and properly!) etc. Again, a good chiropractor can give you the basics after your first 3-5 adjustments, and then it’s up to you. Also, after surgery, most chiropractors are a little sheepish to tweak too much, but as this chiropractor mentions, pain caused by scar tissue can occur and some Chiros are able to help alleviate this.
4. Stayed away from the Office: Research studies have statistically proven that those 50 years and older will take longer to return to work after a lumbar discectomy. Though I’m still a few years away from 50, I should have stayed off the office chair for longer than three weeks. I firmly believe that returning to work early has hampered my rehabilitation as any type of frontward flexion (bending at the waist) should have been avoided. It not only irritated the scar tissue around the incision but also increased the chance of displacing the disc at L4/L5.
So after all this, how do I feel today? I would say I’m 65-70% better than my pre-Sciatica days but I have lost feeling in some areas of my body. Specifically my left foot (toes) and top of my buttocks. At this point it’s doubtful the sensitivity and feeling will return. My overall overall condition at the moment is fair to good however I have started new medication Gabapentin which has reduced some nerve pain but comes with nasty side effects if you use too much. With some physiotherapy added to my weekly routine, I’m hoping to be 90% by the end of the year. Let’s end on a happy note with Eleanor Copeland’s story which is very similar to mine.